Leaders from the Field: Building the Impossible in Nicaragua
By Skyler Badenoch, Director of Development – East Coast
The seldom-told truth about the schools we build in villages across the globe is that some communities have been waiting for education for decades. Imagine this for a moment. You want to send your child to school. You’re willing to lobby the appropriate parties for support, lay the bricks with your own hands, and ensure that the school thrives. You know that all this effort can transform and strengthen your community across generations. But despite your desire, and your toil, you must wait.
I deeply sympathize with this frustration despite realizing how I’ll never quite grasp it. Those that wait for education abroad in many cases cannot read. Others have educational systems in place that are disorganized and operated out of unsafe structures; children flee from their ramshackle classrooms when rain approaches.
[pullquote]Parents in El Bosque had been forced to send their children to the same dilapidated schoolhouse they built by themselves nearly twenty years ago.[/pullquote]
I encountered an example of the latter situation recently in the remote Nicaraguan village of El Bosque, where parents had been forced to send their children to the same dilapidated yet symbolic schoolhouse they built by themselves nearly twenty years ago. They had spent nearly two decades of petitioning their local government and the various international organizations that had worked in their area with little result.
Admittedly, there were major challenges involved in building a new school in El Bosque, both economic and geographic. With a modest budget each year, the local mayor’s office and Ministry of Education faced severe constraints prohibitive of school construction. Simultaneously, El Bosque was considered by most to be too remote and isolated for development work.
But these are exactly the kinds of conditions where buildOn thrives. Leveraging the generous support of our donors, and a significant grant from the Embassy of Japan in Nicaragua, buildOn created a partnership with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, the local Mayor’s office of Yali, and volunteers from El Bosque to eliminate the economic barriers to building a new school.
The challenges that then remained were mostly geographic. In order to build a new school thousands of bricks and hundreds of bags of cement, as well as tons of rebar, roofing materials, sand and gravel, had to be transported to the worksite — which is only accessible by a 30 minute walk down a steep mountainous trail.
For two weeks, the men and women of El Bosque carried materials to the work site by hand and on the backs of donkeys. They collaborated with passion and determination knowing that twenty years of waiting for a school was nearly over. They did it for themselves, but most of all for their children.
[pullquote]For two weeks, the men and women of El Bosque carried materials to the work site by hand and on the backs of donkeys.[/pullquote]
With all the materials at the worksite, the community worked to overcome its next challenge: Excavating the land where the school was to be built. For almost two more weeks, volunteers in El Bosque removed tons of earth and rock until a level foundation existed on what was once a steep, rocky slope.
With the walls of the school now complete, and the project in El Bosque weeks away from completion, the community and the buildOn Nicaragua staff are close to realizing a dream that has been 20 years in the making.